I don't know too many women for whom rumination and overthinking aren't an issue. The mind LOVES to play thoughts on a loop and it can be really intrusive. But how we respond to rumination can either be helpful or introduce unhealthy and potentially addictive coping mechanisms.
What is rumination and why is it so DAMAGING?
Rumination refers to persistent and repetitive thinking about past events, negative experiences, or problems, often accompanied by a sense of distress or dissatisfaction. It is a common characteristic of several psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
Where does rumination come from?
Negative events or experiences: Ruminations often stem from dwelling on negative experiences. The mind tends to replay these events over and over.
Perfectionism: People with perfectionistic tendencies may ruminate excessively due to their high standards and self-criticism. They constantly analyze past actions, seeking flaws and mistakes, which perpetuates rumination.
Lack of control: Feeling a lack of control over a situation or outcome can trigger rumination. When faced with uncertainty, the mind may fixate on the situation, trying to regain a sense of control or find solutions.
Overthinking and analysis paralysis: Overthinkers tend to ruminate as they get caught in endless cycles of analyzing and over-analyzing situations. They may struggle to make decisions, fearing the potential consequences and replaying different scenarios in their minds.
Emotional distress: Strong emotions such as anxiety, sadness, or anger can contribute to rumination. When overwhelmed by these emotions, individuals may ruminate as a way to process and understand their feelings, even if it becomes counterproductive.
In an effort to resolve or avoid negative emotions, we frequently develop addictive tendencies that offer temporary relief and foster a reward-seeking pattern. Online shopping? Social media scrolling? Mindless eating? Excessive alcohol and drug use?
Distraction is not the answer
At the same time, addictive behaviors can reinforce rumination and escalate the cycle of negative thinking. See the connection? Addressing rumination often helps us kick our addictive behaviors, providing us with healthier coping strategies and alternatives to break free from these patterns.
Respond to Rumination the Healthy Way
Rumination doesn't really stop, we just get better at responding in a healthier way. The solution is to stay present and resist turning to a distraction.
Tips for ending rumination:
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques can help break the cycle of rumination by bringing your focus to the present moment. Engage in activities like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts.
Stay with it: If your rumination is focused on a specific issue or problem that is within your control or does need your focus, shift from thought to action. Identify easy, actionable steps you can take to address the situation.. Taking even small steps can help alleviate rumination.
Set aside "rumination time": Allocate a specific time, maybe 15 minutes a day, for dedicated rumination. During this time, allow yourself to think about your concerns, but once the time is up, consciously shift your attention to other activities. This technique is advanced but may help contain rumination to a specific period, reducing its impact throughout the day.
Challenge your thoughts: When you catch yourself ruminating, challenge the validity and usefulness of those thoughts. Ask yourself if there is evidence supporting or disproving your ruminations. Replace negative and unhelpful thoughts with more realistic and positive ones
Slowly, over time, you'll notice when the brain is in its old familiar pattern of rumination and use this awareness to supplant a NEW thought you'd RATHER be having.
It takes practice but it absolutely works...better and better the more you do it! Here is a list of Positive Mindset Phrases that disrupt rumination and help you avoid unhealthy, addictive coping mechanisms:
Stress comes from wishing a situation was different. Acceptance will end my suffering.
What is out of my control deserves freedom from my mind.
It won't kill me to feel this feeling or examine this thought.
My thoughts create my reality. I choose a new thought.
Worry is a prayer for chaos. I choose to pray for peace.
When I change the way I look at things, the things I look at change.
It's not the circumstances in my life that cause suffering. It's my thoughts and feelings about them that cause my suffering.
Remember that breaking the cycle of rumination takes time and effort. If you find it challenging to overcome rumination on your own, consider hopping on a call with me! I'm here for you!